The promotion of Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker to the prestigious position of England captain for the friendly against Holland provoked some debate amongst football fans.
Although some supported stand-in manager Stuart Pearce’s decision, many were angered to see that the captaincy had not been given to more illustrious, experienced players such as Steven Gerrard. Some questioned Pearce’s thinking behind the move – Parker only has 11 caps to his name, and in 2010-11 suffered the indignity of relegation from the top flight with West Ham United. Surely England, traditionally one of the world’s top international sides, were sending out a message of weakness by handing the captaincy to an apparently inferior player?
Actually, no. The move could prove to be a masterstroke for a number of reasons. While some use West Ham’s relegation, and Parker’s responsibility in their plight as their star player, as something to hold against him, it could actually improve his captaincy credentials.
How many of England’s recent captains (Beckham, Terry, Gerrard) have experienced the gritty, arguably more mentally demanding relegation battles that Parker has been through?
Parker also captained the Hammers in 2010-11, with team-mate Carlton Cole citing Parker’s “inspirational” team-talk as the main reason for United’s incredible comeback from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 with West Bromwich Albion in February 2011.
The fact that Parker has spent a lot of his career playing for less fashionable clubs such as Charlton, Norwich and West Ham (as opposed to the Man Utds and Arsenals) may also help to endear him to England fans, as will his never-say-die, in-their-faces approach to tackling and harrying the opposition.
When, against Holland, his England team-mates hesitated to risk committing to tackles early on in fear of being humiliated, Parker lead by example, throwing himself into two consecutive slide-tackles that generated a warm round of applause from the otherwise flat Wembley crowd.
Parker has also managed to remain free from scandal, more than can be said for some of England’s previous skippers. He appears quiet and dignified, but has the leadership skills to inspire those around him without needing to bawl abuse at them.
Some have written off Parker’s chances of retaining the role on the basis that, at the age of 31, he “cannot be expected to be a regular for much longer”.
However, his age could also work as an advantage. Parker’s experience at club level is vastly more than most of his team-mates in the Holland game and his international experience dates back to 2003 with the senior team, 1996 with the various youth sides.
Surely it makes more sense to hand Parker the armband than burden the young, inexperienced Welbeck, Smalling, Jones, Johnson, Richards or Gary Cahill with the responsibility of having to lead a team out when most of them are battling to impress on a personal level in the early stages of their respective international careers.
Why England as a country places so much emphasis on the identity of a captain is debatable. Other countries often give the armband to the most talented, famous or experienced player in the side, which is corroborated by Beckham’s receivership of the role in the early part of the 20th century. However, times have changed and Parker is a role model who’s faults, although present, do not include attitude.
Against Holland, Parker was twice crudely fouled by Dutch destroyer Nigel de Jong and twice got to his feet without complaint, refusing to be drawn into the silly handbags that ruin many matches. That is why Parker makes a good role model for aspiring footballers and why he should be given another chance at leading his country.